When you're looking for good placements on the search engines, your pages need to be tailored to what they're looking for. This means keeping a good density of keywords in the most important parts of your pages, and overall throughout your page. The trick is in moulding your page in a way that appeals to the engines without alienating human readers...
This page was last updated on 2012-08-21
Choosing a page's Keywords
You should now be aware of the idea of picking your site's keywords and phrases. These are the ones you will target. What you need to make out is a list of five to ten search queries that your page is going to go for. You'll want to get in the top ten for as many of these as you can. It may take a bit of research on the web to find the best keywords with the least competition — try having a look at competitor's rankings for specific searches, and pick the most promising ones.
Remember that the fewer searches you're targeting, the more chance you have of scooping the top spots in the ones you are going for, as your efforts will be less diluted.
Once you have your list, you will need to start modifying your page to incorporate them in the best places. When you're writing new content you can be aware of these tips as you write and so build up a style based around this keyword-placement model, but I prefer to go over things like this in a second draught.
The Important Areas
It used to be that the <meta> tags were the single most important thing on a page for the search engines. This has since changed. The three most important aspects of every page the modern search engine indexes are:
- The page
- The first paragraph
- The special text on the page
These are the three places where you need to concentrate on writing cleverly-worded content that is tailored for the search engine, and includes as many of your keywords as possible; while still being informative and meaningful for your readers.
First off: your page's
<title> tag. The engines vary on how many characters they read in your title tag, but you should add in five to ten words, with the main ones at the front. Leave out phrases like 'Welcome to' — they're a huge waste of very valuable space. The first word or two should be the text's actual title (whatever is encased in the first
<h1>s on the page). After this can come a very brief description.
It should be noted that a short title with all the words a reader used in their request will usually be ranked higher than a page with a few other keywords in there too, but we want to maximise your audience. Only put in important words, leave the secondary stuff for the page's content.
Always be aware, however, that when people are searching for your keywords, the title of the page is going to be the thing that draws their eye. It can't just be a list of words, so try to link the words together into a phrase that describes the content of the page.
The first paragraph
The title of this area is a little misleading, but this is always how it's expressed. When I say paragraph, I'm not talking about the words within the first instances of
<p></p> on your page — that wouldn't work. It is just a vague term for the first hundred or so words on your page. All of these words carry more weight than the same words would further down the page. This system continues on a slope throughout your whole page on some engines, but many just have the two sections — the first paragraph and the rest of the page.
It is in this paragraph where you should repeat all of the keywords in your title. This reinforcement of your words is hugely important — the more the same words appear the better. Since you should be writing a short summary of your page somewhere near the top, it shouldn't be too hard to work in some of the subject headings into this paragraph.
The special text
Special text is also given more weight than normal body text. What is special text, you ask? Any link-text (the words that make up a hyperlink), alt attribute text, or headings are considered special. There are other types that some engines give importance to, like all-caps words, but these three are the main ones.
Think of it like this: for every instance of a keyword on your page, you get one 'point'. For every time this word is part of a link, you get two, and in
alt text, 3. If you have special text in the first paragraph, the effect is multiplied.
This is why it's so important to make your link text descriptive, instead of using 'click here' for them all, which is disastrous. Not only do good links improve the page they're on, but they improve the targeted page's ranking for the link-words too. So whenever you link to the page you're working on, try to use your keywords as much as possible. Don't use the same ones too often however, as after a time you'll probably have enough for one specific search — diversify the words a bit too to catch the easier search terms. When you're submitting your pages to directories and stuff, try to use keywords in your site's title. These will improve the page's rank.
Spam is, sadly, a concept you're going to become aware of the more you use the Internet. Spam is the unlikely name given to anything received that wasn't wanted. It comes in many guises — usually as email — advertising products and services you don't need; which drops into your inbox every morning. As more and more fools hoping to make their first million arrive in cyberspace, we become subjected to their desperate attempts at making any money at all. If you haven't received much junk mail yet, be ready. Giving out your email address anywhere on the net is dangerous nowadays, as people give in and sell their readers' addresses to marketing companies. They can even get your address off webpages automatically, so there's really no way to avoid receiving junk mail.
What you can do, is not get involved in it yourself. In truth, if you're reading this, it's unlikely that you'd ever partake in such irritating and ridiculous shenanigans, but it is possible to spam the search engines. Submitting your site more than once to a search engine is largely unnecessary. The old idea of submitting once a month to keep your ranking high up is continually peddled by people following outdated rules. You do not need to resubmit your site, except for the unlikely event of a search engine not receiving your submission in the first place.
sourcetip: It’s hard to trust any site with your email address anymore, so avoid giving it out as much as you can. I would recommend setting up a new email address (from » Hotmail, or whatever), to use as a secondary address that you don’t mind using if a site requests it.You won't believe the amount of spam they'll send you.
Do you have a good dental plan? Indeed.
Realistically, search engines are snowed under with useless submissions already, so they don't have the time to go reindexing sites they already have whenever the webmaster wants. The wait-time to be included in an engine's index is already at the unhelpful period of four weeks on average. They'll reindex your site when they decide to do another crawl of their index, and probably not a moment sooner.
sourcetip: Just a small tip for dealing with email spam. Never reply to them, or click their 'remove' links. All this does is confirm your address to the spammers, and will probably intensify your bombardment. Instead, set up some good filters to block these depressing emails from getting to your inbox in the first place. Spammers aren't the cleverest bunch; it's pretty easy to shut them out.
One of the new ranking processes to come to the fore in recent years is link popularity, pioneered by » Google and since integrated into a number of other engines' ranking algorithms. The concept is simple: over time, good sites will accumulate lots of links from other sites, added by webmasters who found the sites useful. Essentially we're marking other sites up when we link to them. Useless sites usually end up with very few links. An engine can count the number of links pointing to a site and have a good idea of its relative worth.
This process is then complicated by the assignment of weights to the incoming links. A link from Yahoo to your site is worth dozens of links from lesser sites. Already-popular sites have much greater weight than new and less popular sites. This is a way to stop people cheating their way around the system by setting up so-called 'link-farms' — sites designed purely to influence page rankings — although it hasn't stopped people from going ahead and setting them up anyway. Dopes.
The first steps in good link popularity begin at home — a good network of links between your pages on your site will instantly give them a boost. Then you've just gotta get the word out about your site. If your site is useful you will definitely see people linking to your site. Of course, they have to find it first, which is a bit of a catch-22 situation.
It's in your interest to alert some webmasters about your pages by a friendly email. Post about it in appropriate newsgroups — but don't spam — and soon enough you'll see a snowball effect come into operation. Sites will link to you, more visitors will arrive from those links and some of them will link to you and so on.
Always remember: some sites are worth much more than others, so don't waste too much time on submitting to various directory sites and the like. Limit yourself to the best and brightest, with specific attention paid to » Yahoo and » Dmoz, and you should be well on your way.
Also, your server logs (or counter reports) are an excellent source of linking sites. Remember, a site linking to you is useless for link popularity if it itself isn't in the search engine's index. So go through your referrer reports and submit referring pages to the engines, to make sure that you're getting the full exposure from each one.
Since the dawn of search engines there have been people trying to cheat their way into the mythical 'top ten position'. This epidemic is not helped by the hundreds of enterprising companies with no morals at all who have been set up to relieve naïve webmasters of their cash in exchange for having their sites submitted to 'thousands of search engines'. Let me just clear a few of these myths up for you:
- There are, at most, five search engines you should bother about. The rest of the engines combined don't have as many visitors as any one of these top engines. Even having a top ten position in any of the others will get you so few visitors that it's very rarely worth the effort it can take to achieve.
- The thousands of search engines you are quoted are nothing more than reams of free-for-all pages, another sad side-effect of our thirst for good rankings. These are pages set up with a load of links to unrelated sites that no one ever visits. Search engines can recognise these sites so they're worthless to your endeavours. At best, you'll receive lots more spam for the rest of your life from submitting to any of these pages.
- Search engines know when you use an automatic-submission program to submit your site to them, and they're none too happy about it.
Going along with that last item, search engines (and, more to the point, the generally floundering companies behind them) are getting a bit ticked off by the state of the Internet. There was an estimate released recently by AltaVista that said 95% of the submissions they receive are spam. That's a staggering number. It's no wonder search engines are so slow at adding new sites when they have to sift through all the useless rubbish that people send them.
To combat this gross misuse of their facilities, search engines are becoming smarter at recognising useless sites that have no place in their index, and are getting more ruthless in what they pass over come indexing time. If you get caught trying to cheat the system you will be ignored, and in extreme cases, black-listed by the search engines. That's not something you want.
What doesn't work
And so, the common spamming techniques, as favoured by every pointless Internet marketer for the last five years. First stop: keyword-spamming. This involves piling the same handful of keywords into the page title and body text over and over and over. As you can imagine, this pattern is pretty easy for a search engine to recognise, and so can easily be filtered out.
Gateway pages: short, keyword-happy pages with a big graphic that you click on to enter the site proper. You'll see this technique recommended by every clueless spammer who ever approaches you. They promise to set up a page that will perform really well for a specified search term, and then have it link directly to your site. This doesn't work. With the advent of link popularity, the gateway pages were shown to be what they are: useless fluff at the beginning of a site. From a usability standpoint also, these pages slow down a reader's entry to your site.
The misuse of the
alt attribute is one of the more heinous crimes committed in the pursuit of success. As everyone knows, the
alt attribute is supposed to be used to describe the image to people who can't see the image. It's an accessibility feature. Sadly, it needed to be used by the search engines so they could understand what the images were of and so the abuse began, with people loading up the
alt text with keywords that didn't pertain to the image. Admittedly, I indulged in a bit of this myself in days gone by, but have since kicked the habit in favour of a more reader-friendly use of the alternative attribute. Using this technique is damaging to many of your readers — try not to use it.
In summary, the main point of this article is to implore you not to fall into the trap of trying to weasel your way into a search engine's good books. The truth is, a good site will become popular because it's good, not because of your keyword-choosing proficiency. Promoting your site is necessary — to a degree — but becoming obsessed with your search engine position is no way to run a website. As link popularity shows, the Internet as a medium ranks and applauds the gems that make it up itself, and it's usually not long before great new sites are discovered.
Write some content that people will enjoy and learn from, and your site will eventually succeed all on its own.